Dreamgirls: Not a Movie, It’s Life

Academy award winning actress Lupita Nyong’o once said in an interview that colorism, “is the daughter of racism”. Colorism is the preference of lighter skin often within the same racial group. Colorism ensues mostly within the black community. People that deny colorism exists fail to recognize that its roots date back to slavery.

Light skinned children were often the result of forced sexual acts between slave owner and slave. Although the child was not fully claimed by the slave owner, they were still more preferable because they were related to their owner. As a result, light skinned slaves were given house chores and domestic tasks while darker skinned slaves were put to work in fields and more likely to be beaten and overworked. This treatment difference turned into a practice amongst black people.

The Eurocentric features, like light skin, less kinky hair, etc., that the biracial children possessed became a standard of beauty in the black community. After slavery, black people that were in the upper class were largely fair skinned.

brown paper bag test

The brown paper bag test was utilized in the 19th century to decide who got a “pass” into different social circles. If you were lighter or the same color than the bag, you got more opportunities. If you were darker, you were turned away. There was even a nursery rhyme children sang with blatant colorist connotations:

“If you’re black, stay back; If you’re brown, stick around;

If you’re yellow, you’re mellow; If you’re white, you’re all right.”

Practices like this certainly led to poor self-image of black people with darker skin. Most dark skinned people can recall a time when they disliked their skin or noticed they were treated differently because of their complexion.

Women, in a general sense, are treated differently in society. They are often objectified, critiqued for their figure and treated lesser than in comparison to a man. Women have to deal with body shaming, sexism, and more all the time. Having a dark complexion or more Afrocentric features adds to the list. In other words, black women not only have to combat the struggles of being a woman, but they have to deal with colorism as well. Beauty standards are constantly fed to them through what type of black woman is on ads and beauty products or who gets cast in television shows and movies.

The 2006 film Dreamgirls does a great job at visualizing the struggles of black women in the entertainment industry. The movie tells the story of the Dreamettes, a musical group trying to find their big break in the 60s. The group gets the opportunity to sing back up for a popular soul singer and soon after book their own gig. The only issue the new gig brings up is that there needs to be a change of lead singer. Effie, a curvy brown skin woman, was lead and it was agreed among the group that she had the best voice. The new gig however did not care about talent, it was about appeal. Deena replaces Effie as lead simply because she is slimmer and fair skinned making Deena is more appealing to a white audience. Not only does this offend Effie but it messes with her mind. To make matters worse, the group’s manager who called for the switch was also Effie’s boyfriend.

After the switch the group’s success skyrocketed. For Effie it was a hard pill to swallow that to the eyes of the world she wasn’t beautiful enough to make it. Deena’s beauty was praised so much that the group’s name was changed to Deena and the Dreamettes. Deena was also given outside opportunities like a documentary, a movie deal, and she ended up marrying their manager (Effie’s ex). This whole situation messed with several aspects of Effie’s life and mental health. Her self-image and confidence were ruined, her love life was taken away, and her talent was pushed aside and passed on. All these issues arose from a matter of appearance.

Another way to look at the movie is to show the necessary evil of colorism for black people. White people dictated success so they had to do what was most appealing to that audience, which was a fair skinned woman. It was terrible to watch black people in the music industry tear down one woman for the sake of making it. But the sad truth is this doesn’t just happen in Dreamgirls movie; it plays out in real life all the time.

                        Lena Horne

A great deal of black people that are pioneers in the entertainment world are fair skinned. It makes me wonder: if there weren’t light skinned black people would black people get representation at all? An example of this is Lena Horne. Horne was a very influential black dancer, singer, and activist; however, people feel like a lot of her opportunities came from the fact that she was so fair skinned. At first glance most can’t even tell that she is African-American. A more to date example of this are icons like Beyoncé and Zendaya. Zendaya has even said herself that she is “Hollywood’s acceptable version of a black girl”.

Darker skinned women are turned down opportunities because of colorist ideals of lack of appeal. Dreamgirls exposes the unspoken colorist actions that take place within and outside of the black community. This is shown by the direct correlation between the switch in lead and the group’s success.

Just as in the movie, colorism can affect many aspects of a black woman’s life. For example, searching for marriage, hiring for a job, disciplinary actions and self-perception. Data gathered from the National Survey of Black Americans (NSBA) show that it is less likely for a dark skinned black woman to be married. Beauty standards play a role in both how a woman sees herself and also how a partner may see them. In addition, the pay gap between women and men is widely talked about. In another study, NSBA concludes that there is a significant pay gap between light skinned and dark skinned women. Lastly, since blackness is sometimes associated with aggression, darker skinned women and girls are often punished more harshly than their lighter counterparts. Studies show that darker skinned women are more likely to receive longer prison sentences and darker skinned girls are more likely to be suspended from school (Greenidge).

Personally I can attest to being affected by colorism. Most of this discrimination came from my black peers and friends.

In middle school it was jokes about not being able to see me in the dark and getting called names like “blacky”. In high school I was told that I’d be a perfect girlfriend but I was just too dark for their type. They said that they would like to find a girl with my personality just…white.

In another incident, someone I considered my friend told me that he had to marry a light skin girl because he wants beautiful kids and if his kids came out too dark he’d give them away. Maybe he didn’t realize at the time but in saying that his kids needed to be light skinned to be beautiful he implied that I was ugly. This happened about 3 years ago. While reconnecting with that person, and being much more confident that I was before, I confronted him about those comments. He claimed he doesn’t remember saying such things. It is crazy how something he said that he can’t even remember is going to be something that I recall and something that will affect my self-image for the rest of my life.

There is no doubt that colorism and its effects on black women is real; I can certainly attest to this. Racist ideals have managed to disguise itself and wiggle its way into the black community. Since it is so deeply rooted yet hidden, many people have a hard time acknowledging it. Although the movie Dreamgirls wasn’t real, the story and character Effie is.  Black women get turned down, pushed aside, and demeaned all while still rooting for their lighter counterparts for the sake of supporting black excellence. If not from research, personal stories of dark skinned black women validates colorism’s presence. Effects of colorism presents itself every day when a lighter black girl gets more like son TikTok or when the First Lady of the United States, Michelle Obama, gets called an ape by other people in power. Beauty comes in all shades and that message needs to be enforced to the fullest in order to reverse or change the self-hate that colorism creates.

The Black Mirror of Social Media

How Social Media Changes Us

We all know that the rise of social media has completely changed the way in which we view the world and other people. Whether it be through pictures of a family trip or a review on our favorite restaurant, we all have an impact when we use social media. This empowerment that social media is able to provide, allows us to feel wanted and to have a presence in platforms such as Instagram, Twitter, and Facebook. There are many issues with how dependent our generation is becoming on social media as many mental illnesses are also on the rise such as depression and anxiety. I have chosen to do an analysis of an episode of one of my favorite shows Black Mirror, focusing on the season three episode “Nosedive”. If you are someone who has never seen Black Mirror before, the main idea of the show is to show the impact of technology on society and to tell a story showing how the “Black Mirror” which in this case would be a device with a screen that is a mirror and we tend to look through it. All of us have definitely fallen into the black mirror, and this is all by design from the engineers who are paid to make sure we the consumer is always connected. How have we as a society allowed ourselves to fall so deep in technology? I will also be divulging into how the episode tends to use intersectionality and the director had the purpose to use social media and its societal effects to connect with the audience. Technology has been able to provide the world with many benefits, but the effects on the main character prove to be detrimental in her friendships and mental health.

I will begin by fully explaining the society that we follow during the episode “Nosedive”. The episode begins in a beautiful town that is seen as more dystopian in nature. The main character of the episode is Lacie Pound, who is rated at 4.2 at the beginning of the episode. The ratings in this society are out of 5, the higher you are to 5, the more that you can get out of your daily life in the town and the influence you have on others. The director is able to use the common rating system that we may see in something like Uber or Yelp, but instead, it is so much more personal because the rating system in “Nosedive” deals with an individual and their morals. When comparing this to our society today, it may seem that we are heading towards this kind of society, some tend to believe that the amount of likes they get is symbolic of their popularity and status. “Nosedive” 

The writer of the episode is able to use intersectionality to allow us as the audience to relate to the characters, as we see many times that Lacie tends to put a facade on while she is in public with others, and tends to act much differently than with her own brother who has a low score of 3.1. The individuals with higher scores were seen in another class and lower score individuals would be cut off. The director made sure to show that the purpose of the episode was to show how we seek validation from those who are more influential and important in society.  As a viewer, when we see Lacie at first, at least I tend to think she is a shallow person who only relies on the approval of others, but the only reason she is doing all of this is to get through her life. Everyone wants to be approved by others, and Lacie is just conforming to the standards that society has put her under. 

We only begin to see more of Lacie when she decides to upload a picture of one of her childhood toys, Mr. Rags, which she and her childhood friend Naomi, who is a 4.8 and highly known in the community, made together when they were young. We begin to see the connection that these two vastly different characters have and Lacie is given the task to be her Maid of Honor, which would greatly improve her overall score and influence and allow her to purchase a new home that is only for those with higher scores. This is when it all goes downhill for Lacie, whether it be an outburst at the airport due to a canceled flight, which dropped her rating to a 3.3, and with many other things, her rating dropped to almost 2.9 before the wedding of her “lifelong” friend. Lacie was seen as this perfect character without many flaws, but deep down the purpose of this scene was to show that these characters have a hidden personality when they act like their true character.  The result of these events almost caused her to be blacklisted from society, and in these outbursts in public, the scene was able to show the audience that each person is just playing a false character to satisfy society. 

The wedding turned out to be an emotional rollercoaster for Lacie, once she arrived, she had already been told to not come for the reason that her score was so low, and this sent her off the deep end and she just wanted to be there for her childhood friend. The theme of intersectionality was most seen during the wedding, where the guests were high 4.8 plus rated individuals who acted as the best of the best of society. Lacie followed on her journey and she decided to crash the wedding and she was emotional with the aid of alcohol, she delivered her speech, albeit, without the childhood memories, she began to tell Naomi off and how she was treated as a child and how Naomi only kept her around because she was better than Lacie. Lacie was fully expressing herself as she had never been able to do so before and this completely derailed her rating and eventually, she was arrested for pulling a knife on the groom in her emotional tirade. In the end, we were able to see Lacie express herself, and she broke the facade that had plagued her life for too long.

The writer for the episode was also able to incorporate Logos into the episode by showing how vastly society will treat an individual with a higher score and treat another one with a much lower score. The purpose of this shows the audience that the people who live in society have no choice, but to conform to society. The first example is when we are shown the houses on Pelican Cove, which is a town with nice houses. One of the payment options for these homes relies on how high someone is rated. A 4.5 rating will receive a twenty percent discount compared to someone who is not at this range. We also see how logically, it is practically necessary to have a good score in this society because once Lacie was at around a 2.5, her options at a rent a car location were so limited it ended up in her being deserted to a dead battery. She had lived her whole life trying to keep her image and in the end, she was failed by a missed flight and multiple outbursts which derailed her ratings. When Lacie needed help, the only person who helped her was this woman named Susan, who was rated a mere 1.4 out of 5. Typically, Lacie would never approach an individual with this rating due to her image possibly being ruined. Lacie was practically saved and Susan explained how her rating never got her anywhere even when she was a high four rating individual.

Susan had to deal with pain when she lost her husband to cancer and the rating was the least of her worries. This scene was one that stood out to me as a member of the audience. For the entire episode, we were only seeing the individuals who “mattered” and who appealed to Lacie. She finally had been able to freely express herself and she always wanted and people in this society did not think the same way at all. She went from a life of luxury to become a truck driver and she did not regret anything because her rating was only superficial in her happiness. Lacie in the end was able to freely express herself when she was in her cell and she followed by saying what she felt to her cellmate without fear of repercussions as she always watched in the past.

This episode was able to use these lenses in ways that we as the audience could clearly understand and apply it to our lives today. Social media is becoming more and more attached to our personal happiness and “Nosedive” could be a preview of what the future can hold. The more importance that social media is given, the newer generations will have a tougher time breaking from this addiction which never fully satisfies the user. Most social media is temporary gratification and never allows for a full human connection. The episode reveals the dark truth of social media, albeit it is quite extreme, could it possibly be something we see in the future?  Each decade, technology finds more ways to become a part of our lives, such as Amazon Alexa which has proved to be a monumental invention and even used by someone like myself, I feel that it has been able to make tasks easier. The idea of having a rating system seems more like a science fiction movie, but each day the possibility becomes greater.


Rhetorical Analysis – Final Draft

Aurie Zeituny
Professor Libertz
2 November 2020
ENG 2100: Writing I

A Story of Mistrust, Inner Conflict, and Overwhelming Chaos

Although there are countless rhetorical lenses that can be used when analyzing a cultural artifact such as the latest addition to the James Bond franchise, Spectre, the “pathos” lens works best. The James Bond film franchise is one of (if not the only) film franchise that still creates new additions to it’s storyline every few years even after creating several decades worth of films. The franchise invokes much emotion in its viewers, allowing for there to be dozens of movies that have been created relating to the franchise over the past several decades. The playwrights who created Spectre use certain imagery and emotional storytelling to attract the audience and adhere to their emotions throughout the entirety of the film.
The world-renowned James Bond franchise holds many award-winning classics under its belt. Some notable members of the series include the likes of Goldfinger, For Your Eyes Only, Diamonds are Forever, Skyfall, and many more. Considering how the James Bond series is viewed as a “cultural artifact” of sorts (by being a franchise adored by billions worldwide), the most recent of these brilliant films, Spectre, can be analyzed using tools of rhetorical analysis.
In this edition of the James Bond film franchise, “A cryptic message from the past leads James Bond (Daniel Craig) to Mexico City and Rome— After infiltrating a secret meeting, 007 uncovers the existence of the sinister organization SPECTRE. Needing the help of the daughter of an old nemesis, he embarks on a mission to find her. As Bond ventures toward the heart of SPECTRE, he discovers a chilling connection between himself and the enemy he seeks” (IMDb).
The rhetorical lens of pathos “appeals to the emotions of the audience and elicits feelings that already reside in them. Pathos is a communication technique used most often in rhetoric, as well as in literature, film, and other narrative art” (Google). The James Bond films all appeal to the emotions of the audience and constantly keeps everyone watching on the edge of their seat throughout each movie’s entirety. Each film is action-packed and comes with a fresh storyline that contributes to the continuation of 007’s story. The first James Bond movie, Dr. No, was released to the public in 1963; almost 60 years later the franchise is still creating films with No Time to Die being the latest one set to release in November or 2021. Countless famous actors have played as James Bond over the past 6 decades. Some of the most notable being Sean Connery, Daniel Craig, Pierce Brosnan, and Roger Moore.
The James Bond film franchise is one of the most profitable in history. “Over 24 films, the series has grossed more than $7 billion worldwide” (Observer). The movies that have come out (and will continue to come out) all give a fresh take on different missions that James endures. Even with different brilliant actors playing the one role over the course of time, fans are as excited as ever to see the next addition to the series. The film series does such an exceptional job at tugging at the heartstrings of the audience, that viewers like myself, constantly find themselves re-watching films from the series over time as we wait for the next edition to be released. The James Bond films are a classic. The directors, actors/ actresses, and crew do an amazing job at holding the audience’s feelings hostage, as they (spoiler alert) slowly kill off everyone James has come to know and love throughout the series’ creation. In almost every film, 007 eventually meets a new love interest, only for her to either be killed, leave him, or for him to leave her for his chaotic lifestyle. There have been more love interests in the James Bond series than there have been different Bond actors. Almost everyone James comes to love eventually gets killed off by the directors and scriptwriters as a brilliant way to keep the audience intrigued in seeing what beautiful face will accompany 007 in the next film. One example of this is how at the beginning of the film, Spectre, we see James Bond going after and killing an enemy. His enemy had a wife, who Bond ends up meeting “and then sleeps with her after his funeral while she begs him to stay for more” (The Guardian). Bond reluctantly leaves and continues on his quest to defeat a higher, more important power. Audience members constantly find themselves rooting for James as he battles villainous enemy organizations, murderers, at times the government agency he is a part of, MI6, and his own inner demons that have built up over the past several decades. The creators know exactly how to captivate the audience and although the films are seen as basic action/ adventure films to some, there is something truly special about the Bond universe that keeps people’s eyes glued to their screens throughout each movie that releases. The last scene in Spectre involves James and his most recent love affair (a woman he meets later in the film, not the widow spoken upon earlier) walking away together from the main protagonist of the film as he lays in a pool of his own blood. Earlier in the film, James admits to this more recent love affair that he was partly responsible for her father’s death. In fact, he admits to watching her father commit suicide before his very eyes, and that he could not do much to prevent him from doing so. The audience sees this woman run away from Bond earlier in the film while screaming at him, to walking away from the camera in the final shot of the film with him, hand in hand. “She acquires temporary cold feet: “I can’t go back to this life. And I can’t ask you to change. This is who you are,” she tells him before the final action set piece in “Spectre.” Inevitably, she changes her mind” (The Washington Post). After reviewing the film and looking at the more minuscule details, I can now say that the final scene, in particular, stood out and made me realize how their relationship changed in such a short amount of time. The creators of the film made sure to pull on the audience’s heartstrings as they flipped the “love affairs” characters’ emotions in such a short time. In just this film alone, he kills a man and sleeps with his wife, and later is the reason a man kills himself and sleeps with his daughter. Both women were aware of 007’s involvement in both crimes, yet they both eventually realized that they could not resist the temptation to be with him.
The James Bond franchise as a whole has a very specific medium, genre, and style that the creators live by in order to keep the excitement for the series going. As each movie falls under the genre of action/ adventure, there is a certain style of filmmaking that goes into each film. The latest addition to the franchise, Spectre, does a great job of showing this. In the film Spectre, there are fast-paced action shots, climactic moments, dilemmas that 007 needs to make decisions on, and more. The movie is action-packed and the plot leads James across the globe in search of the villainous terrorist organization he is seeking to find. The audience is left on the edge of their seats throughout the film as James battles countless mercenaries with automatic weapons has to rescue his love interest multiple times; as he attempts to stop the organization’s leader who takes him on an eventful, global goose chase. In addition, during the entirety of the film Spectre alone, we see a total of 4+ intimate scenes involving sex, nudity, and other means of affection. Although Spectre is one of the least sexual Bond movies so far, respectively, it still incorporates intimate scenes that add to an overall more personal feeling/ connection that the audience feels with James, thus resulting in more audience retention and relation to the film.
Spectre takes place in the late 2010s as it was released in late 2015. As 007 is English and works for the English based counter-terrorist organization MI6, we see cultural commodities that relate to the English culture such as 007’s infamous Aston Martin that he drives himself in, different exotic accents used by many characters in the film, and a storyline that spans Europe (and more specifically at times, England). The audience that the film is tailored towards is people that enjoy action/ adventure films, and people who have seen previous editions of the James Bond series. With a budget of 245-300 million dollars, there were not many constraints that held the film’s production at a standstill. The cast and crew were able to film all across the globe. Pyrotechnics, exotic cars, life-like CGI rendering, and other amenities were used throughout the film’s duration in order to turn it into the masterpiece that was envisioned by the directors. The storyline was intriguing and emotionally captivating, some of the camera angles and drone footage that was recorded were filmed in an extremely professional manner, and the actors/ actresses who played in the film brought their all allowing for the film to come out as a polished work of cinematic art.
The creator’s main purpose for creating the film, Spectre, was most likely to contribute to the vast James Bond film franchise. Dozens of films have been based around the James Bond universe, and the author must have felt a need to continue the story, playing on James’ inner demons, and how he came to eventually overcome them. This is a film franchise that seems to never have an end date. As said earlier, the next edition to the Bond franchise No Time to Die is set to release in November of 2021. It has been rumored that after this film is released, there will be a new actor that will take Daniel Craig’s spot for James Bond, thus continuing the storyline after what will have been 25 total films at the time.
The James Bond franchise, and more specifically, the latest James Bond film, Spectre, takes the audience on an adrenaline-inducing adventure. The storyline is extensive, spanning over the course of several decades. The creators of the film franchise know how to keep the audience at the edge of their seats. Throughout the entirety of the storyline, James accumulated countless inner demons that he is tasked with disposing of, in addition to several world-saving counter-terrorist missions brought on by MI6. James fights through all of his pain and suffering in order to save the world from the grasps of evil many times. The 007 film franchise is one of class and elegance that will continue to dominate the film industry for decades to come. Spectre, the latest addition to the 007 universe is no different. The playwrights and producers captivate the audience’s attention by playing on their emotions. The world cannot seem to get enough of James Bond’s adventures for good reason; I like most people am glad that the end to his story does not seem to be anywhere in sight.

How to Speak to the World: Understanding the Language of a Leader

In the Muslim world, there are many women, but Benazir Bhutto was one of the first to shine. She fought for democracy and broke all the barriers set for the women of her time. Her greatest accomplishments are many firsts for the world – the first female Prime Minister of the Muslim world and the first female leader to give birth while in office (Yes, before PM Jacinda Arden). Bhutto’s primary struggle was against the military-regimes of General Zia-Ul-Haq and General Pervez Musharraf. Bhutto believed that oppression only existed in anarchy and tyranny. She saw Democracy as the solution to these problems.

As a woman who spent her life fighting against oppressive male dictators, one of Bhutto’s most powerful speeches was “Male Dominance of Women” orated during the 1995 United Nations Conference on Women in Beijing. The Conference on Women marked a significant turning point for the global agenda for gender equality. Bhutto seized the opportunity of speaking to a diverse audience of government delegates, NGO representatives, civil servants, and the media regarding the injustice women faced. She used multiple rhetorical techniques to showcase the problems women encountered and the solution to those problems. Bhutto’s speech serves as a timeless and empowering piece of rhetoric for women’s rights.   

Benazir Bhutto speaking at the 1995 UN Women’s Conference in Beijing.

At the beginning of her speech, Bhutto argues that “Women have become the victims of a culture of exclusion and male dominance”. The word choice of “victims” and “dominance” emphasize the imbalance in the power dynamic between men and women. The contrasting nature of the words furthers the idea that women face more than just deprivation. Women are oppressed. Bhutto then further proves her point by using statistics to give credibility to her claim. She states that “Seventy percent of the children who are denied elementary education are girls”.

Illiteracy hinders individuals from surviving in society. People who lack education are forced to the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy and have little chances of mobility. These individuals work strenuous low-paying jobs causing them to become society’s scapegoats for poverty. Marginalized and malnourished these individuals struggle to survive. Feeding and keeping their youth alive is prioritized over educating them, resulting in a cycle of illiteracy.

The fact that the majority of these individuals are female showcases that women are inclined to struggle financially and socially. What makes the situation worse is that women are deliberately declined an education. Bhutto explains that this is because “…obscurantists believe in discrimination. Discrimination is the first step to dictatorship and the usurpation of power.”

Although such discrimination is specifically centered toward women, the goal of the oppressors is tyranny over men and women. The words “dictatorship” and “usurpation” hold negative connotations that evoke fear. The thought of someone ruthless seizing power is a universal phobia. 

Bhutto points out that the sexism women face is a part of something more brutal that will ultimately hurt everyone, regardless of gender. Her rhetoric works to convince her male audience to aid women because discrimination is harmful to men as well. Therefore, helping women is essentially helping themselves. 

Bhutto then goes on to discuss the possible solutions to these problems. She uses an anecdote filled with imagery to describe her visit to a poverty-stricken village. She states that the only solution to the problem’s women face is to “…invest in our women”. She believes that financial literacy is the key to independent and confident women. Bhutto talks about the importance of women beginning to work in “…far-flung villages where time seems to have stood still and where the Bullock, not the tractor is still used for cultivation”. Here she uses figurative language to emphasize that women’s rights are timeless and that humans are stuck in a paradox of time where development is halted due to the rigid structure of society.

Bhutto personifies time when she says, “time seems to have stood still”. She repeats this technique later in the next paragraph when she personifies poverty. She states that the areas that need to be prioritized are “Where poverty stalks the land with an appetite that cannot be controlled until we wake up to the twin reality of population control and women’s empowerment.” Her use of personification is symbolic because it introduces the idea that both time and poverty resemble humans. If they can act like humans, they can be controlled like humans. It alludes to the idea that these two major hurdles that stand in the way of women are controlled by humans.

To solve the issue of women’s rights, we need to recognize our part in the problem and work to help those who need it. Breaking the shackles that bond these women is an insignificant part of the duty we have towards women’s rights as humans. Empowering women holds greater value.   

Oppression is uprooted when the seeds of social justice are sowed. Bhutto uses repetition to cement this idea into the minds of her audience. She poetically states that:

“Social justice is a triad of freedom, of equality, of liberty:

Justice is political liberty.
Justice is economic independence.
Justice is social equality.

Delegates, Sisters !

Empowerment is not only a right to have political freedom. Empowerment
is the right to be independent; to be educated; to have choices in life.

Empowerment is the right to have the opportunity to select a productive
career; to own property; to participate in business; to flourish in the
market place.”

When individuals have equal opportunities and the freedom to make their choices society can start to develop. Therefore, societal progression is incumbent on social justice. She then goes into detail stating that pure social justice takes place when empowerment takes place in all three categories. Bhutto introduces that empowerment consists not just of encouragement but also of adherence to basic human rights.

Here, Bhutto also uses repetition to get across her point. Throughout the course of the speech, Bhutto is seen consistently using repetition. As an orator, repetition helps the speaker hold the attention of the audience. However, this example stands out amongst the others due to the short syntax of the sentences. The use of semicolons and periods creates a diverse range of pauses. This allows for shorter phrases that allow for more emphasis on each phrase. This allows for the attention of the audience to linger over each idea longer. In Bhutto’s case, the technique helped her bring attention to her proposed solution of empowering women by creating affluent educational, social, political, and financial opportunities for them.   

At the end of her speech, Bhutto conveys a feeling of hope towards the future. She accomplished this because of the optimistic tone she portrayed through selective diction. Bhutto used words like “opportunities”, “protected”, “peace” and “development” to end her speech in a positive tone. She ends with hope for the future based on the solutions she has provided for the problem she has highlighted.

Bhutto’s main goal was to inspire her diverse audience to act for women’s rights. She helped them understand the problems by giving specific examples. She then proposed the solution to the problem. But, in the end, she leaves everything in the hands of her audience, taking up the role of a mere messenger. Bhutto is successful in convincing her audience to work for women’s rights.

Bhutto’s speech is courageous and a reflection of herself as a woman and as a world leader. This speech is one of many rhetorical pieces by Bhutto that define her legacy as one of valor. Bhutto always embraced the truth, voiced it, and fought for it. She didn’t just speak to the world, she made the world listen to her.

Benazir Bhutto posing with her three children.

The Evolution of The Sneaker



Sneakers have been making an impact on our society for centuries.  From the creation of sneakers till now, these shoes have completely evolved in the way we wear and perceive them. In an article written by Vogue, the author explains the history of sneakers and their key moments in time. The goal is to analyze the text and gain as much knowledge as possible; through the author’s rhetoric. Since the author is providing facts in the attempt to persuade the audience into learning more about the topic, this piece could be analyzed through the rhetorical lens of logos. Sneakers can be an interest for many; however, I believe this article will interest and help sneaker heads, like myself, understand more about the culture. 

The purpose of this article is to enlighten people on how sneakers came to be and how they have evolved to what we know a sneaker is in today’s world. The author is providing factual evidence about sneaker history in order to attract the audience to the text. However, one will only learn if the author makes the right choices in trying to persuade their evidence.

How someone expresses their writing can determine what the audience takes away from it. The author of the article, Rosalind Jana, expresses her thoughts and facts through words that show great imagery. When speaking about the variety of brands there are, Jana states, “And whether the object of one’s affections was basketball player Kareem Abdul- Jabbar springing for the hoop in his flat-soled Adidas or Charlie’s Angels’ Farrah Fawcett sporting that instantly recognizable Nike tick, there was plenty of inspiration to choose from, athletic or otherwise.” The use of phrases such as “springing for the hoop” or “instantly recognizable” draws the audience in about what they are reading because it gives the text a sense of excitement. Her inclusion of excitement and imagery is important when trying to express the topic in an attempt to persuade all kinds of readers. This helps those who are unfamiliar with the topic get involved in wanting to know more. 

The structure of the text is key when writing to an audience. The author here did a great job in showing somewhat of a timeline from the beginning to present day. She begins way back in the early 1800s when Charles Goodyear invented vulcanized rubber, which was then applied to the creation of a more durable shoe.


This is important to note because many people, especially young teenagers, do not know these specific facts that occurred many years back. She ends the text by showing that there is a variety when it comes to the type of sneaker we wear. In this situation, the lens of organization can be tied into the analysis as well because she organized the text to where  each section would point out a different time of history. This helps the audience understand how sneakers have evolved over a long period of time in our culture. 

Later on in the text, the author expresses this idea that sneakers, “speak to and participate in everything from class, to sports interests, to culture, to music taste, to a desire to bound around without feeling encumbered by uncomfortable footwear.” This is a great point to make because sneakers stem to many aspects of life. There is great diversity in the world of sneakers. Sneakers are made for everyone to express themselves in any way they would feel comfortable. They also provide different uses. There are sneakers used by baseball players and there are sneakers used by basketball players. Although the point was made, the author should have expanded on this idea for the audience to get a bigger sense of the context being demonstrated. If she would have chosen to go deeper with the idea about social class related to sneakers, I can guarantee the audience would have found it more interesting.  She also mentioned Instagram in the article but very briefly at the end. The role social media plays on fashion in today’s society is huge. All kinds of sneaker brands and influencers are constantly posting and being posted for all to see. This would have been a great point to elaborate on when talking about how sneakers are worn and portrayed in present day.

The history of sneakers is great knowledge for anyone to know, especially those interested in sneaker-related aspects. Opening your mind and reading about new ideas and topics will only make you a more interesting and more skilled person. With that being said, this article is a great read. For the intended audience, it was very resourceful and included many interesting facts about where the concept of the sneaker originated. The author gave detailed evidence of historical facts about the different people and brands that have impacted how we perceive sneakers in pop culture today. It could have been slightly better and more informative if Rosalind Jana and those at Vogue would have gone more in depth about aspects such as diversity and the role of social media. All in all,  the author was successful in the choices she made in persuading the audience. The rhetorical lens of logos, and even the lens of organization, helped greatly when analyzing this text. 

Get Out by Jordan Peele

The Issue of Racism in the Film Get Out by Jordan Peele

Of all the movies that I have watched in the last few years, Get Out has been the most interesting and informative. It would be hard for anyone to believe that the movie was Jordan Peele’s directorial debut because it succeeds on almost every angle of analysis that one can think of. For instance, in a rare feat, the film achieved a 100 percent rating on Rotten Tomatoes which means that all the critics, who are known for being among the harshest, approved of it being a masterfully done piece. Get Out might be perceived as an entertaining film by most audiences but anyone who takes a critical look at it will notice that it is a movie that explores the psychological underpinnings of passive racism that have permeated American culture and made it difficult for black people to identify the deceptiveness of the privileged whites and to forget about the nation’s racial past.

One of the messages that becomes absolutely clear when one watches Get Out is that American racism is very much alive. The nation has long shown apathy towards systems of racial privilege in addition to denying that such systems exist but Peele’s film refutes such notions and makes it apparent that racism is slowly eating away at individuals belonging to racial minorities. The clearest indication of racism in the film is when the Armitage family feign friendliness while secretly plotting how to take control of Chris Washington’s mind. To illustrate, Rose Armitage pretends that she is madly in love with Chris and thus invites him to meet her parents. However, when they get to the cottage in the country side, she appears disinterested in Chris. Similarly, Rose’s parents pretend that they are at ease with Chris dating their daughter but their true intentions are eventually revealed when they try to hypnotize Chris to become one of their victims. Peele thus challenges the Caucasian characters’ assertions of not being racist and forces the public to discuss the topic of passive racism which is often approached uncomfortably by a majority of white Americans. Alternatively, one could interpret Get Out as a film that illustrates how deeply-rooted racism has become in American society that it is almost impossible for minority groups to escape from it (Hepola).

One thing that I believe makes Get Out worth watching is the fact that the director uses the horror/psychological genre to explore the theme of passive racism. Several things add to the film’s categorization as a dark and foreboding thriller and one of them is that it explains how the Armitage family hypnotizes black people and transfers the conscience of weak white people into their bodies with the aim of prolonging the lives of the latter. The idea of the white characters wanting to receive a brain transplant from the black characters who are held against their wishes makes Get Out a film about more than just racial tensions. Rather it makes the film about the black characters’ fear of losing their minds to the racist whites. Alternatively stated, Get Out makes it apparent that the a person’s consciousness is linked to their minds and that the reason why another person would want the brain of another person would be because they want to perceive the word from the perspective of that whose mind they have inherited (Hepola). Thus, the film could be considered as a psychological thriller because it seeks to create social awareness about the scary idea of a person losing control of their mental faculties.

Further evidence of Get Out being a film that illustrates the horror surrounding the loss of mental control is the look on Chris’s face when he realizes that he has been duped into hypnosis by his white girlfriend’s mother. In this scene, Chris is paralyzed to the point where he cannot move a muscle. As a result, Rose’s mother, Missy, uses the opportunity to gain access into Chris’s mind and to manipulate his thoughts. On the other hand, Chris is extremely mortified but since he has been paralyzed by both the hypnosis and the absolute fear of losing his mind, he can only shed tears, try to fight back or await the eventual transference of his mind to another person. The fact that the scene where Chris is pictured with tears streaming down his face and his mouth wide agape is the one used as the promotional poster reinforces the idea that the film is indeed a psychological/horror work that emphasizes the fear of one involuntarily giving up control of their mind.

One could also state that Get Out is a film focusing on the psychological gullibility of the black people in their relations with white people. The film could be illustrative of the notion that in as much as black people have been subjected to cruel treatment and trickery by their white counterparts, they also almost always get deceived into believing that the latter has their best interests at heart. For example, Chris innocently assumed that the hypnosis was going to help him kick his smoking habits, but it turns out that the process was used to trick black people into enslavement at the manor. This scene serves two purposes and one of them is to demonstrate how black people were lured from faraway lands to come and work as slaves in cotton plantations in the United States. Simultaneously, the scene symbolizes America’s history of medical racism where minority groups, including African Americans, are wilfully manipulated and subjected to cruel experiments that eventually make them distrust the nation’s health system. As such, mental health issues such as trauma and depression remain high within such communities because of low rates of doctoral visits and a high likelihood of misdiagnosis due to racial prejudice in the practice of mental health care (Mays et al., 173). Thus, Peele appears to implore upon black people to literally get out of the “sunken place” where they have been weighted down by a lies that have resulted in a negative cultural history and racial trauma.

Get Out also passes for a psychological film when one takes an in-depth look at why Peele makes’s the hypnosis scene the point of conflict leading up to the climax. To explain, the main idea here is that the black servants playing host to weak white people would never have agreed to such an arrangement if they had been told to offer themselves up voluntarily. As such, the Armitage family have to resort to mental manipulation to ensure that they exercise their power over the black people. This concept aligns with a line in The Mis-Education of the Negro where Carter G. Woodson states that: “When you control a man’s thinking you do not have to worry about his actions. You do not have to tell him not to stand here or go yonder. He will find his ‘proper place’ and will stay in it.” Thus, it can be stated that Chris realized that he was about to be hypnotized and manipulated into giving himself up to the servitude of the Armitage family and hence his blocking out of the hypnotic tools. In other words, Chris realized that his mental freedom was the key to achieving his physical freedom and so he had to do everything possible to avoid falling into the trap of mental manipulation. This goes to show that Get Out is not only a psychological film but also one that beseeches the audience to treat racism as a real problem and not an imagined one.

Get Out could not have come at a better time than it did because for a long time, racial tensions were increasing and threatening to boil over in post-Obama America. Even Peele himself was unsure that the movie would be made not just because of the state of social affairs but also because of budgetary constraints. It thus came as a surprise that it became one of the highest-grossing films of 2017 besides having been directed by an African-American director as a debut feature film. More than that, the film ignited a frenzy both on social media and in public discourse because it tackled the issue of racism head-on. Esquire magazine even called it the “best movie ever made about American slavery” because it utilized spectacular cinematography and story-telling to depict the theft of the black body (Thrasher). However, the film’s gist revolves around the fact that it was produced when the first African American president had just left office and police brutality against black people was alarmingly high. Furthermore, the Trump campaigns carried a hint of racial prejudice against black people and so the film Get Out targeted the racial hypocrisy that was prevalent across the nation. Interestingly, Peele infuses comic effect into the movie, thereby addressing racism while putting the audience at ease. Most importantly, Peele focuses on almost every aspect of racism ranging from interracial relationships to slavery and police brutality among other serious issues that affected the society both previously and at the time that the film was produced.

In summary, the theatrical success of Get Out can be attributed to the fact that the producer took it upon himself to create a film that was not just entertaining but that tackled a real issue affecting millions of people from racial minority groups. The first thing that the movie does is to express the explicit idea that racism is a very prevalent and enduring problem in America even though it is practiced subtly in some places and not in others. To make his point, Peele utilizes the horror/psychological genre to bring out the idea that racism is a horrendous to those who are affected besides being mentally draining to those who cannot wrap their heads around the idea that it is possible to manipulate individuals into assuming that they are not affected by negative racial occurrences. The director does this by showcasing how fearful Chris is at the thought that his mind is about to be taken over and his brain transferred to another person all while he is awake but incapable of doing anything to stop the action. Furthermore, Peele demonstrates how black people have been the subjects of psychological manipulation which prevents them from seeing the true picture of white racism. Chris’s ability to break free from hypnosis and his daring, violent escape in the end offer hope that it is possible to overcome racial white liberal racism and end its terrifying practices. The fact that the movie was written and produced by an African American director also adds to the credibility of the story being narrated and how it impacts the audience. Get Out thus remain one of the most pivotal conversation starters because it explores the whole spectrum of race and race relations while highlighting the consequences of prolonged or passive racism. I would definitely watch this movie again and again because every time I do so and analyze it, I realize something that I may have overlooked before.

Ice Borg Vs. Fire McEnroe 

Movie Trailer: https://youtu.be/IgfFdEOGUqE

“Borg vs McEnroe” is a movie that is about so much more than tennis. It takes place in London during the 1980’s before the annual Wimbledon tennis tournament. That year was especially important because Borg would have a chance to set a new record, by winning his 5th Wimbledon tournament of his career. There was only one person that stood in his way: McEnroe. Within the movie we analyze, and get into the depth of both players’ minds. The directors and writers purposely use many rhetorical lenses to illustrate how Borg and McEnroe are very much alike and experience similar emotions.

Borg holding the trophy to one of his wins at Wimbledon

Borg holding the trophy to one of his wins at Wimbledon

In the beginning of the movie we are first introduced to the number one ranked tennis player, Bjorn Borg. When he is introduced to us, the directors play slow and peaceful music as we see him practicing in an almost harmonious, robotic way. The tone of the music demonstrates that Borg is a very calm and composed person. We also see a scene of him as a kid, dreaming of becoming a true tennis champion. After we are introduced to Borg, we are then shown McEnroe. In the first scene he is arguing with the judge by cursing and throwing a “tantrum.” We also hear the sound of chaotic rock music while this happens, giving us an impression that he is a “bad boy” and doesn’t play by the rules. After comparing McEnroe to Borg we understand that McEnroe is not a traditional and classy tennis player. Whether it is the way he plays, the way he talks, and even the way he dresses – we can tell he is different. With the use of tone and music we gain a wider sense for the divergence of our main characters. 

As the movie progresses the audience starts to see how the life of a tennis player may not be as perfect as one thinks. The director puts the audience in Borg’s perspective to highlight his calm and humble demeanor. In a scene where Borg goes to get coffee he tries to hide from the crowds, going to a small coffee shop. At the coffee shop he says he is an electrician, rejecting his fame to avoid being recognized and staying humble. From this scene we are able to understand that Borg feels a lot of pressure coming into the tournament, and seems tired of being expected to win all the time. By showing us close shots of Borg and bringing us into his perspective, we can see how he truly feels.  

McEnroe celebrating after winning a round in Wimbledon

McEnroe celebrates after winning a round in Wimbledon                                                                      

Next, we get into the perspective of McEnroe when we see how stressed he is about Wimbledon, and the amount of effort he puts into each and every game. Once McEnroe got into his hotel room, he instantly started drawing brackets on the wall and chaotically tried to predict his potential matchups. We actively see how much of a toll this tournament has on him, where he constantly seems nervous about winning. This puts an unimaginable amount of pressure on McEnroe to try and play his best. By using multiple perspectives, the producers and writers help us gain extra insight on both Borg and McEnroe. Showing us that our main characters are not without flaws, but rather they may have many problems heading into Wimbledon.    

Along with perspective, characterization is used to really help develop both Bjorn and McEnroe and show us who they truly are. We see this for both characters when we are taken into flashback scenes from their childhoods. For McEnroe, his childhood seemed to be very organized and strict. His parents would force him to do well in school and never expressed to him how proud they were. Even when he did well in class or in tennis they would say that he could’ve done better. On top of that McEnroe’s father would put pressure on him and test him on hard math problems in front of guests. This caused McEnroe to become embarrassed and would be punished for not being perfect. Additionally, when we saw McEnroe practice as a kid he was extremely focused, hitting the ball well and reminding us of a robot – just like Borg.  

Now on the other hand we have Bjorn Borg. We are taken through flashbacks into his childhood, seeing him as a boy playing tennis against his opponent. After a very intense rally his ball is called out and he starts to yell at the referee. He goes on to break his racket as the judge takes action against him by taking away points and games. We then see his future coach listening to someone say that Borg is an “embarrassment to the club” and “not right in the head.” After this match Borg is clearly upset about losing but it gets worse as the club then puts him on a six week suspension because tennis is a “gentleman’s sport.” Similar to McEnroe, Borg’s father was also a bad role model and father. He yelled at Borg about being perfect, and threatened to never let him play tennis ever again. As Borg grows up he learns the hard way that when he becomes frustrated and shows emotion in games he loses. His coach eventually lets him play in his first pro tournament but tells Borg, “Promise to never show a single bloody emotion ever again.” From there we see how Borg turned out to be a robot, feeling no emotion during his games and playing near perfect. 

The producers develop Borg and McEnroe’s characteristics within these specific childhood scenes to have the audience start to recognize a major part of the movie. As I watched these scenes I couldn’t help but notice how Borg as an adult acts how McEnroe was as a child, and how McEnroe acts now as Borg did when he was younger. It’s from here that the directors want us to start to understand how even though they seem so different, Borg and McEnroe really have much in common. After this point came the climax of the movie, the Wimbledon Finals.

Right before the finals start we see a shot of Borg sitting next to McEnroe on a bench, dressed in the same clothes, with this following quote behind their heads. “If you can meet with triumph and disaster and treat those two imposters just the same.” This quote from Joseph Merz’s poem “Meet with Triumph and Disaster,” and the finals is how the authors established purpose in the movie. The quote reminds and teaches us that being focused on the outcome is a mistake. Both McEnroe and Borg have always been focused only on each game’s ending whether it’s a win or loss. Where in reality, in order to win you have to play to your full potential – no matter what. We see here how both McEnroe and Borg are really very similar and facing the same challenge. With this quote in the audience and the players minds, Borg and McEnroe walk onto the court, and the finals start. 

Borg and McEnroe before walking out to play the in the finals (from movie).

Borg and McEnroe before walking out to play the in the finals (from movie).

The announcers and fans all cheer when Borg walks out hoping he will make history by winning his 5th Wimbledon. Then McEnroe is booed as he walks out, clearly not favored by anyone to win the finals. The announcers once again highlight how different the two players are by saying that Borg is a baseline player (stands back), and McEnroe is a net player (rushes the net). Once the finals start each player puts his all into every point, they go back and forth point to point and set to set. Eventually Borg goes up two sets to one and has a chance to win his third and final set in the tie break. But McEnroe manages to hang on, fighting for every point and eventually tying the score at two sets each. As the audience watched this, they were in awe of both these players’ tremendous effort and skill. Eventually Borg won the last of five sets making him the 1980’s Men’s singles Champion of Wimbledon for his fifth time. As the award ceremony commenced and the players received their trophies, the crowd cheered for McEnroe. Everyone expected McEnroe to be his regular self, yelling and throwing “tantrums” when things aren’t perfect, but this was the opposite of what happened. He along with Borg played for himself and not just for the outcome leaving the audience stunned. McEnroe lost the championship but won over the world. (Highlights of the 1980s Wimbledon Final)

Finally at the end of the movie Borg and McEnroe bump into each other in private at the airport. With no fans around they hugged with an understanding of each other, and what they’ve gone through to make it where they are today. In a way they are truly the only ones who can understand each other. As the credits come on the writers and producers tell us that Borg and McEnroe went on to be best of friends showing us how they found themselves in each other. With the various rhetorical devices the movie creators used, we are able to take the lesson from this movie that Borg and McEnroe along with many other tennis players are all very much alike.

Borg and McEnroe seen on vacation together as close friends

Borg and McEnroe seen on vacation together as close friends



Becoming the Sun – Advocacy and Activism

MUSIC VIDEO: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iywaBOMvYLI

Lyrics from Genius: https://genius.com/System-of-a-down-toxicity-lyrics

[Verse 1]

Conversion, software version 7.0

Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub

Eating seeds as a pastime activity

The toxicity of our city, of our city


You, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder?

Now, somewhere between the sacred silence, sacred silence and sleep

Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep

Disorder, disorder, disorder

[Verse 2]

More wood for their fires, loud neighbors

Flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of a truck

Eating seeds as a pastime activity

The toxicity of our city, of our city


You, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder?

Now, somewhere between the sacred silence, sacred silence and sleep

Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep

Disorder, disorder, disorder

[Instrumental Bridge]


You, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder?

Now, somewhere between the sacred silence, sacred silence and sleep

Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep

Disorder, disorder, disorder


When I became the sun, I shone life into the man’s hearts

When I became the sun, I shone life into the man’s hearts



In the above video of a concert in 2005, System of a Down introduces the song “Toxicity” as being about ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder).  Upon first glance, the lyrics make references to medication and the daily struggle that people with the disorder face.  However, I believe that there is a deeper meaning to the title and lyrics.  Essentially, they illustrate how mental disorders and external societal disorders can’t be separated.

“Toxicity” has its multiple topics playing with each other to illustrate dual internal and external torment which weighs on the writer.  The first and most apparent, is related to drug dependency, which is caused by the ADHD diagnosis.  It is a tangible toxicity, because of the introduction of a foreign substance to the body.


To get an idea of what living with ADHD is like, we can look at this blog post by Frank South, which likens the disorder to having a hurricane in his head.  He uses the imagery to explain how disorganized his thoughts can be and how difficult it is to focus on solitary ideas.  “When someone asks you something, and you realize that even if you stay stone still, dead center, you can’t trust your answer, because you’ve been so focused on not getting sucked in, you haven’t heard much besides the roar in your head. You get better with the balance as time goes on, and you get by, even do well. But the hurricane never goes away. ” Later, he interestingly brings up his motive to write the post.  A tornado that missed their house reminded Frank of how it felt inside his head.

The subject of the song may be experiencing a similar instability.  We can see this from the chorus – “Somewhere between the sacred silence and sleep, disorder, disorder, disorder”.  The subject is clearly not at peace here, but there is one word that sticks out to me – “between”.  Why are “silence” and “sleep” apart from each other and why is disorder in between them?  From the CDC website, one of the common side effects of ADHD medication is trouble sleeping.  In this short and brilliant lyric, we can now see the amazing paradox that is eating away at the subject.  He feels that he must choose between taking the medicine (as a reprieve from the “noise” of the ADHD storm) and having restful sleep (which brings on its own issues).


How does one cope with ADHD?  The second line in the first verse sets the scene – “Looking at life through the eyes of a tire hub”.  And how would one see the world as a tire?  You would be spinning in circles until an external controller stops you.  This plainly shows the sentiment that the writer wanted to express, the subject of the song does not feel in control of their monotonous life.  One must then wonder, who is the controller?

To connect with Frank South’s blog post, he often does not feel in control of his mind.  The answer to this issue is the most common treatment for ADHD: pills.  They are the driver of the metaphorical vehicle that is the subject’s life.  The third line in both verses, “eating seeds as a pastime activity” is a metaphor comparing eating seeds to taking medication.  People diagnosed with ADHD feel that they need to take medication to function in the way that society will accept them as “normal”.

This presents an interesting philosophical issue: to attempt to control their lives, they first must let a pill take control of their minds.  By drawing an equivalence between eating seeds (food) and taking pills (medicine), the normalization of drugs is framed in a very negative way by the writer.  After understanding this, the strange first line now makes more sense – “Conversion, software version 7.0”.  Besides the historical context of AOL 7.0 being released in 2001, the writer is likening the effects of the drug to a reprogramming of his mind.  Though, the reprogramming seems to be voluntary.

However, the song doesn’t end here.  We haven’t looked at the fourth line yet!  The fourth line in both verses, is “The toxicity of our city, of our city”.  Then the chorus, (“You, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder?) keeps escalating the scope of perspective from the individual, to a city, and then a worldview.  While the pronunciation of “city” is contained in “toxicity” and it works well musically, these lines convinced me that we have now transitioned to a different topic and a new definition of toxicity.

To fully understand the lyrics, we first need to know the band’s history and specifically, the writer’s personal background.  System of a Down is very consistent in their lyrical messaging.  The band covers a variety of political and non-political themes such as mass incarceration, war, drug addiction, and the environment.  Though they cover these and many other unpleasant topics, they combined them with other typically unrelated topics in an ingeniously artistic way.

The namesake album was released on September 4, 2001, and eventually sold enough to become RIAA-certified 3x Platinum.  Probably the most famous track, “Chop Suey!”- has a chorus with religious (specifically, Christian) undertones.  It serves as a vehicle for the main theme: drug addiction and suicide.  Essentially, the subject develops a god complex and equates themselves to Jesus Christ.  The lyrics cleverly use Jesus’s plea for death (“Father into your hands; I commend my spirit”), to convey the emotions of an addict in a desperate moment.

In a later album (“Mezmerize”), the song “B.Y.O.B.” has lyrics related to frenzied partying – “Everybody’s going to the party, have a real good time; Dancing in the desert, blowing up the sunshine”.  This is supported by the title – “BYOB” typically means “bring your own beer” – but it is done in a sarcastic and mocking fashion.  The main subject of the song is The War on Terror and the writer’s disapproval towards the upbeat enthusiasm of the American government and the young male recruits.  The song’s attitude is clear: war is not and should not be a “good time”.

I believe that “Toxicity” similarly uses the ADHD medication theme to bring attention to another issue.  While ADHD affects millions of people, I don’t believe that this is solely about the widespread prescriptions. In my opinion, the second theme is a visceral, societal toxicity that exists.  While there are no specific places mentioned, the key to understanding the sentiment behind these lyrics, is knowing the one that penned them: lead vocalist Serj Tankian, who is of Armenian descent.  In his time at California State University – Northridge, he was president of the Armenian Student’s Association and attempted to spread awareness of the Armenian Genocide.  The below link has some information about him.


Armenia is a country that has gone through several periods of occupation and unrest, including: Roman occupation, Soviet invasion, and a revolution in 2018.  Though most painful, was when the region was under control of the Ottoman Empire from the 1500s to World War I.  Most Armenians were Christian, and faced heavy abuse and discrimination from their Turkish and Kurdish neighbors.  This continued for centuries, and any resistance was quelled.

Over time, Armenians appealed to anyone they could – including political or religious powers – for help to pressure the Ottoman government.  However, opponents led an ethnic propaganda movement to stir up anti-Armenian sentiment.  The coup of 1908 was only temporarily successful, and the tension eventually reached a breaking point with the countercoup of 1909.  The new extremist religious government sought to restore Islamic authoritarian rule and exterminate all political opponents and ethic outsiders.  Unfortunately, they were very successful, and it resulted in one of the worst genocides in human history.

Though the Ottoman Empire fell shortly thereafter, the current Turkish government still does not admit any wrongdoing.  By attempting to justify the genocide, Turkey has essentially “owned disorder”, which is the ringing refrain of the chorus.  “Disorder” is repeated 14 times in the song, as opposed to “toxicity” only being said twice.  It’s not hard to see why Tankian dwelled on that word, and his grief is conveyed in his singing.

The full line is “You, what do you own the world? How do you own disorder, disorder?”  From hearing the vocal inflection, these questions are extremely defiant and interrogative in nature.  Who is he speaking to?  I believe that this line might be speaking to oppressive governments (such as Turkey) who own land, but it might reveal a dual meaning related to the ADHD and addiction theme.

Who might “own” ADHD and the medication?  Certainly not the ones suffering from it.  These questions might be directed at psychiatrists who diagnose and write the prescriptions.  They are the final authority in treating this disorder, and the writer may believe that this is like “owning” it.  Thus, this contributes to the societal toxicity of the “civilized” world.  In asking these questions, Tankian has exhibited issues in developed and undeveloped countries.


The above medical article examines studies on causes of ADHD.  In addition to exposure to substances in pregnancy, exposure to heavy metals and chemicals, and nutritional deficiencies, there are other environmental factors contributing to development of ADHD.  Such factors include maternal stress and childhood trauma.  The sad history of Tankian’s ancestors is part of his own identity, and perhaps like other System of a Down song lyrics, he was again trying to channel his related emotions into this song.

Such traumatic experiences can be perpetuated and exacerbated by society.  Other clues from the rest of the lyrics such as “More wood for their fires, loud neighbors; Flashlight reveries caught in the headlights of a truck” can be interpreted in two ways.  The first is a comparison to mental burnout and external disturbances.  However, the music video shows people huddled around a trash can on fire.  If we recall the “seeds” line, people eating literal seeds because they have nothing better to do is quite a dismal scene.

By intertwining these multiple issues in the lyrics, I believe that Tankian attempted to show the inseparability of mental disorder and societal disorder.  System of a Down has been consistently outspoken against societal destabilization and advocating for human rights.  Even if the lyrics were not to be taken literally, it still fits the expectations of their audience.  This seems to have been an intentional decision by Serj Tankian and helps solidify the band’s identity while “becoming the sun”, illuminating a taboo and uncomfortable topic and bringing it into public discourse.


October is ADHD Awareness Month, agreed upon by a coalition of nonprofit organizations and medical associations.

Is New York City Dead Forever?!


New York City is Dead Forever. Here’s Why… This is the name of an article that New Yorker James Altucher wrote in August 2020. When I read this title, I immediately felt insulted. “NYC better not be dead,” I thought, “I just committed to living in the city for four years during college, and one of the main reasons I wanted to come was because it’s the city of opportunity!” This bold title compelled me to further investigate. In the back of my mind, I was probably thinking, “Wow… I have to read this just to see how big of an idiot this guy really is!” And as I read, I realized that Altucher actually brought up some very valid and unique points. As much as I wanted to believe that Altucher was just a naïve pessimist, I couldn’t help but spend a lot of time considering the ideas from the article. To convince his audience that New York City is dead forever, James Altucher establishes his authority as a well-versed New Yorker who has always loved his city and presents statistical data that alludes to the dark future that NYC could have in store.


James Altucher is an author, an owner of a comedy club in New York City, and a former hedge fund manager who has lived in the city for many years. When he first moved to NYC, Altucher felt like it was a “dream come true.” New York was everything he wanted and more; the friends, the family, and the opportunity was like nothing he had ever experienced. For the readers who expected the author of an article like this to be somewhat biased, the fact that Altucher has lived in the city for quite some time and has enjoyed it so immensely makes his argument much more legitimate. This allows the reader to feel like they can trust what Altucher is saying because he has established credibility with his audience. By expressing his feelings about all of the things that he has loved while living in NYC, Altucher makes his audience feel like they are looking at this issue from the same side.


Altucher believes that business in New York City will take a tremendous hit from the pandemic which will be tough to recover from. One thing he highlights is that only 500 people – out of 8,000 – are currently working at the Time Life building in midtown Manhattan. This alarming statistic confirms that many New Yorkers are either unemployed or working from home. Because more people are able to work online, the need for a physical workspace is diminishing. This means that the need for office space will start to decline, and people will be able to work from any place with an internet connection. With such a low percentage of people who are still working in an actual office, we have to ask ourselves: will New York continue to be a major hub for business in the future?


On the topic of businesses, our author actually happens to have a business of his own. Altucher “co-owns a comedy club, Standup NY, on West 78th and Broadway.” On a somewhat special and spontaneous occasion, someone famous showed up at Altucher’s club. “One time, Henry Winkler stopped by to come on my podcast. He was the one who told me it had been a theater. He said, ‘I grew up two doors down from here and used to perform in here as a kid. Then I went out to LA to be the Fonz and now I’m back here, full circle, to be on your podcast. This place has history.’” By recounting this experience, Altucher demonstrates in greater detail part of the reason he loves New York so much. On top of the fact that he moved to New York to find opportunity and pursue his passions, Altucher has the privilege of spontaneously meeting people that could have an impact on him for the rest of his life. This is something that many people who either live in NYC or hope to live in NYC look at as an example of why it’s so wonderful. Altucher does a great job of relating to his audience to make them feel like they feel the same way about New York. Altucher once again demonstrates his credibility through a personal anecdote that highlights his love for the culture that is so unique to New York City.


Another big aspect of New York City that Altucher considers is the food scene. Everyone knows that NYC has the widest range of food options in the entire world. Food is definitely one of the best parts of NYC; no matter where you are, you can always find something good to eat. Citing the well-known restaurant review website Yelp, Altucher informs his audience that 60% of restaurants in the United States have closed, and the percentage could be even higher for restaurants in New York.  Because food is such a big part of the city, the frequency of restaurant closures is quite alarming. This could possibly mean that fewer people will be drawn towards the city since one of its greatest perks won’t be as great as it has been in the past.


Since people aren’t commuting to the office or going to restaurants and clubs, Altucher believes that we need to think about how New York City’s real estate market will be affected. As businesses start to close, Altucher claims that prices for real estate will go down which means that apartments and office spaces will become much cheaper. While one might think this is good because more people will want to move into the city, it actually could have the opposite effect. Altucher believes that as prices go down, people will wait… and wait… and wait, “until everyone loses.” To explain this point, Altucher puts the audience in the shoes of someone who is considering buying or renting a place in NYC. As someone who is looking to live in the city, you might have the thought: “Hmmm, everyone is saying NYC is heading back to the 1970s, so even though prices might be 50% lower than they were a year ago, I think I will wait a bit more. Better safe than sorry!” The result is that landlords and real estate owners end up going broke. By putting his audience in the shoes of a person who is looking to rent a place in New York, Altucher is able to shape his audience’s perspective to help them understand why this deflationary spiral might take place in New York’s real estate market.


Even though he has established and backed up his bold claim on the future of NYC, Altucher still understands why some people might be skeptical about NYC being dead: “New York always comes back, even after 9/11 and the 2008 recession.” But Altucher believes this time is different. Because of the increased internet bandwidth, high-quality video calls are now possible; and not only are they possible, but they have also become much more reliable than they were in the past. “People have left New York City and have moved completely into virtual worlds. The Time-Life building doesn’t need to fill up again. Wall Street can now stretch across every street instead of just being one building in Manhattan.”  By addressing a possible counterargument, Altucher reveals that he isn’t being closed-minded while discussing his stance on New York. Not only does this improve his overall argument, but it also adds to his credibility as someone who looks at an issue from multiple perspectives.


Right now, New York City might not be as great of a place to live as it once was, but it’s hard to say if it will be that way forever. It is important to consider the timeliness of Altucher’s article. The article was written in August 2020, which was in the thick of the pandemic. When things are bad, it can be quite hard to see how they could ever get better. Although Altucher makes many great arguments, we need to take a step back and realize that no one can predict the future with 100% accuracy. Since we don’t know what the future might have in store for us, all we can do is speculate with the information we currently have. This is exactly what Altucher is doing. He is generating claims from the things that he knows to be true at this current time. While it isn’t a bad thing to predict the future, we must recognize that any predictions made about the future come from a more narrow perspective than reflections made about the past.


James Altucher builds a strong claim that New York City is dead forever and he supports his assertion by establishing credibility as someone who knows a thing or two about life in New York, and by illustrating the effects that certain statistics will have on NYC. There is no doubt that NYC has taken a big hit from the pandemic; we can see how it has affected businesses, restaurants, clubs, real estate, and culture in the city. The question we should be asking ourselves is “will this be permanent?” Are the issues that Altucher discusses just a short-term effect of the pandemic, or will they change the city forever? There is a classic virtue that says “only time will tell.” This is something I believe we all should keep in mind when we hear bold statements about the future. Never expect to find the complete truth about something that hasn’t happened yet. All we can do when we see things like, “New York City is Dead Forever… Here’s Why,” is hope to gain a new perspective on a complex issue. So… Is New York City really dead forever? Only time will tell…

San Junipero: Reality Beyond Constraints

Black Mirror is a worldwide known series on the streaming platform Netflix. It is known among its viewers for portraying the dark side of technology and the possible consequences of our growing dependency on technological innovation – significantly relevant in our current time of tech advancement. In a usual episode of the series, one would be introduced to a different kind of reality with a kind of technological implication. All episodes are mostly independent of each other and have the tendency to cause doubts and uncertainty among the audience which is -usually- only resolved and fully explained at the end of the episode causing reflection up to a certain extent.  The name “Black Mirror” refers to the screen of the device you are probably watching it on.

San Junipero is the 4th episode in the 3rd season of the series. Like all Black Mirror episodes, it invites the public to evaluate the implications of advanced technology, but this time with a particular point-of-view not typical of the series. In San Junipero, we are introduced to a stance of ethical-emotional retrospection of the use of technology associated with the science-fiction of virtual reality away from the chaotic theme usually found in the series. This Black Mirror’s episode goes beyond an anarchic story setting, even beyond technology. San Junipero depicts a moral dilemma in which real emotional variables and limitations play a major role, while still managing to cause reflection behind the ethics of a certain -ostensibly harmless- innovation. This is mostly why San Junipero is one of the most acclaimed episodes of the series; it has a different type of denouement and, although it still talks about technology, presents other types of ideas around it.

Kelly and Yorkie, San JUnipero

At the beginning of the episode, we see for the very first time a non-current and non-futuristic environment, actually, the setting of the episode appears to start in the ’80s in the small beach town of San Junipero. Here, we are introduced to our protagonists, Yorkie and Kelly. San Junipero seems like a fun place to be, in the first scenes we see lots of young people hanging at clubs, drinking, and dancing. Belinda Carlisle – “Heaven is a place on earth” playing in the background. Yorkie, a young woman wearing glasses and a nerdy outfit, enters a club; she seems to be overwhelmed by the number of people, by the music. Unlike everyone else there she seems to be uncomfortable with her surroundings, maybe even herself. This is when she meets Kelly, an outgoing young woman looking to enjoy the moment,

San Junipero is not a real place; it is virtual reality. The purpose of San Junipero is a place for the elderly to upload their conscience before dying, virtual heaven. For the most part of the episode, the audience is not aware of the situation; small hints are given but the characters refuse to speak of it as a simulation in a possible attempt to forget that what they are experiencing doesn’t belong to the real world. In avoidance of real-world terms they refer to those in the free weekly trial as “tourists” and those who have moved-in permanently as “locals”, both Kelly and Yorkie are visitors, only allowed to log-in once a week.

Yorkie had lived most of her life in a hospital bed. She became quadriplegic after a car accident that occurred consequently of telling her parents about her sexual orientation – which they did not agree with. Yorkie carried the limitations to her identity throughout her entire life and, at the age of 21, when she finally felt ready to come out as her true self and fully experience the world, her body stopped working, trapping her mind for the rest of her life. Many years later, San Junipero represented her opportunity to experience life, without the limitations of her unfunctional body. 

However, in the simulations, she still carries her emotional restrictions, like her apprehension to express what she feels – instead, she hides in her emotional comfort zone. An example of this is how she is wearing glasses in San Junipero although she does not really need them, since in the hyperreality her vision is unmarked. Yorkie: “The lenses don’t do anything; they are a comfort thing”. Yorkie’s glasses represent her authenticity as well. Kelly: “People try so hard to look how they think they should look; they probably saw it in a movie [referring to everyone else in San Junipero], but you [Yorkie], you are yourself”. Yorkie is not trying to relive her life or configure her identity, she is trying to explore what she was never able to experience, pick it up where she left it and continue discovering herself. Everyone else in San Junipero is pretty much trying to keep appearances of who they are, attempting to relive their youth and believe in the simulation.

In week 2, when Yorkie is getting ready to possibly meet Kelly again, she is trying different outfits, playing different songs in the background, and matching different clothes with different styles of makeup. In each makeover the camera focuses on her reflection in the mirror accompanied by her unnatural poses and her expressions of discomfort, this works to reveal the insincere nature of her makeovers. The event that for all those makeovers she attempted not to wear her glasses, could either mean she is trying to leave her constraints behind, or she is trying to be someone she is not. Which raises the interrogative of whether she is herself without her constraints. Also, when she moves permanently to San Junipero, the camera focuses her glasses on the sand, as she walks away from them and moves freely on the beach as she plays with the water. Although she does not need them, without her glasses -symbol of her identity- is she still Yorkie? And so, are her experiences genuine? 

In that aspect, it could be argued that her experiences in the simulation are fully emerging and expressive, meaning that San Junipero is as real as reality has been for Yorkie. Hence, her experiences are genuine since she has never lived those stages of her life and had nothing to compare it to; and so her character development in which she moves away from her emotional limitations represents how she becomes closer to her true self rather than acting as someone else. 

Yorkie and Kelly, Real World

On the other hand, although Kelly acts like a free spirit whose only purpose in San Junipero is having fun with no engagement, she too has constraints. Years ago, her husband, the love of her life, passed away and refused to be uploaded to San Junipero since their daughter died in an accident and she had no opportunity for an ensured afterlife. “How can I? When she missed out, how can I?”. Kelly is weighted by the haunting burden of her deceased husband and daughter who didn’t get a chance to live in that kind of virtual heaven; from her perspective, it would be hypocritical to stay in San Junipero given that her loved ones are lost forever. Therefore, she avoids any type of emotional compromise that might bind her to stick around. 

When Yorkie confronts Kelly in the bathroom of San Junipero in the simulated year of 2002, after Kelly has been avoiding her subsequently of their first emotional/sexual encounter the last week they met. Kelly looks at herself in the mirror, she is trying to keep appearances, she is trying to look the way she thinks she is supposed to and feel what she thinks is correct. After Yorkie expresses how she feels about what Kelly did, she storms out of the bathroom, Kelly is left alone. Again, Kelly looks at herself in the mirror and punches it, shattering the glass, her hand is unscratched, she looks back at the mirror and it is whole again. When Kelly punches the mirror, she ideologically breaks the simulation within herself, accepting her feelings for Yorkie. Then, the mirror repairs itself as a reminder that she is still inside a fictional reality. Kelly’s dilemma goes beyond any technical aspect of the simulation itself. In-between all the senseless fun she was offered in her weekly visits to San Junipero while awaiting death, she encounters emotions she was trying to avoid; tearing down the image she was attempting to keep and the promises she made to herself. 

“They are both people who have denied themselves, or have been denied, a whole aspect of their humanity in what you might call Life #1, and now they have a second shot at it.” Says Charlie Brooker, producer of the series, in an interview for Los Angeles Times.

Kelly is trapped under the guilt of the death of her family, she is clearly tempted to stay in San Junipero but it is her own burden the one that limits her away from the idea of starting again next to Yorkie. While stating her reasons, Kelly also portrays the possible ethical dysfunction of the simulation. “I don’t want to end up like all those lost f*cks in the Quagmire trying anything to feel something”. The Quagmire is a place, outside of town,  where some locals -bored of eternal life- go to seek arousal. It is pictured as a nasty and self-destructive place. Kelly, who has already lived a full life with entire experiences, demonstrates her fear of living forever and ending up like them. Displaying a possible downside to the simulated heaven, which she was using as an argument to convince herself of not staying. Although her real fear was that by taking a second chance in life, she would be failing her deceased family and betraying her own morals by taking the opportunity her husband rejected.

Nevertheless, just as Kelly dropped her influence on Yorkie and pushed her beyond her limitations; Yorkie convinced Kelly that although she was able to live her full life in the real world there is more to live for, more experiences to explore, and the opportunity to love once again. 

Kelly: [looking at the horizon in the real world] “All things considered, I guess I’m ready.”

Caregiver: “For what?”

Kelly: “The rest of it.”

San Junipero invites the viewers to wonder about the authenticity behind experiences in hyperreality by appealing to their emotional coherence; also raising the interrogative of personal truthfulness beyond one’s own constraints such as fear and anxiety. For the first time in the series, technology did not represent an antagonist figure but an opportunity. For the protagonists, the predicament itself was facing their emotions and distinguishing a real connection in a simulated world. For the episode, it does not seem to matter, simulation or not, what matters is the experience and that you are happy living it. Yorkie and Kelly were able to encounter genuine feelings in a simulated world, and this denotes that the experiences they lived and the character development that occurred had little to do with San Junipero being a virtual world but with the growth they caused within themselves. Unlike other episodes of Black Mirror, San Junipero has a joyful ending. The episode closes with shots of their data (minds) being stored while Kelly and Yorkie are driving into the sunset, all of it under a warm filter that denotes the upbeat moment. Belinda Carlisle – “Heaven is a place on earth” playing in the background.